Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier, and R&B star R. Kelly are the poster boys for child pornography.
They are also our clearest examples yet of how easily our criminal justice system can be manipulated.
Both men were able to buy their way out of criminal charges that should have put them behind bars for decades.
Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida in 2008 to two felony charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution.
But the charges Epstein was facing were a lot more damning. He was accused of actually paying a teenage girl for sex acts.
Instead of being thrown under a prison, where he belonged, Epstein got only 13 months in jail and was able to work out of his office six days a week.
Despite being required to register as a sex offender, Epstein was allowed to slide through the criminal justice system without dealing with his pedophilia.
On July 6, the 66-year-old Epstein was arrested for alleged sex trafficking of minor girls in Florida and New York.
Epstein, like Kelly, is accused of having sex with girls as young as 14.
Ironically, both men were in the jaws of the criminal justice system around the same time the first time they were accused.
But while Epstein was getting a sweetheart deal in Florida, Kelly was in Chicago on trial for allegedly filming himself having sex with an underage girl.
The case against Kelly was front-page news while Epstein’s sexual misconduct sailed under the radar.
These men, however, share a troubling modus operandi.
Prosecutors accuse Epstein of using his influence and wealth to “lure underage teenagers” and to “shield him from the law.”
Kelly faces sexual abuse charges in several jurisdictions, including Brooklyn, where prosecutors allege his “music career was designed to enable and protect him as he sexually exploited young women…”
In both instances, the accused were able to use their vast financial resources to escape a poor man’s punishment.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan alleged in court filings that Epstein had attempted to buy influence over people who were set to testify against him.
Epstein is accused of wiring $350,000 last year to two associates.
And in 2008, Kelly allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to track down tapes of him having sex with underage girls before prosecutors found them.
Observers are watching closely to see if these men are treated equally in the criminal justice system.
In Kelly’s Chicago case, the indictment affirms what many of us suspected all along.
Prosecutors claim Kelly, his longtime manager, Derrel McDavid, and an employee, Milton “June” Brown, “intimidated the victim and her parents into lying to police and the grand jury.”
That victim is now cooperating with federal prosecutors.
McDavid and Brown are named as defendants for allegedly helping Kelly thwart the earlier prosecution.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the role Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, may have played in the sexual exploitation of minors, though no charges have been filed.
Two of Epstein’s accusers, however, have said Maxwell participated in the abuse, the New York Times reported.
Additionally, Kelly, whom prosecutors call an “extreme danger to the community,” is in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center — pleading broke.
Kelly is facing 18 counts for alleged crimes against 10 victims.
But Epstein, who allegedly assaulted as many as 50 women, according to a Vanity Fair article, is in New York trying to make a deal for a $77 million bail package that would put him under house arrest.
After FBI agents raided Epstein’s Manhattan mansion and found nude and seminude photos of possibly underage girls, a pile of cash, diamonds and an expired passport bearing Epstein’s photograph with an alias, house arrest should be out of the question.
But instead of denying bail, the judge postponed the matter.
Hopefully, Kelly won’t end up looking like he’s the one being wronged.
“Kelly has been on the front page, and it’s as if Epstein has faded into the background,” noted a longtime reader.
When Alexander Acosta, the former federal prosecutor in South Florida, was forced to step down as U.S. Labor Secretary because of his suspiciously lenient handling of Epstein’s 2008 plea agreement, the plot thickened.
Because President Donald Trump was named among Epstein’s many social friends, some people are concerned that Epstein could be convicted and then pardoned by Trump.
Don’t get me wrong.
Kelly deserves everything he’s got coming if he is convicted of abusing underage girls.
How these two sex abuse cases are handled will show us how much progress we have really made reforming our unjust criminal justice system.